The 10 Best Plays in NBA History: 2024 Edition


In the dynamic world of NBA basketball, moments that transcend the game are etched in history as the best plays. From buzzer-beaters to awe-inspiring displays of athleticism, we delve into The 10 Best Plays in NBA History for the year 2024, combining Sports Illustrated’s picks with timeless internet favorites.

10. Larry Bird’s Steal: 1987, The 10 Best Plays in NBA History

The 1987 Eastern Conference finals witnessed Larry Bird’s iconic steal against Detroit’s “Bad Boys.” With five seconds left and the series tied at two-all, Bird intercepted Isiah Thomas’ inbound pass, setting up Dennis Johnson for a game-winning layup. The Celtics eventually clinched the series in seven games.

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9. Shaq Destroys the Backboard: 1993

In a regular-season game in 1993, rookie Shaquille O’Neal’s powerful put-back dunk against the New Jersey Nets literally shattered the backboard. The moment became symbolic of Shaq’s dominance throughout his illustrious career, overshadowing a career-high 50 points scored by Nick Anderson.

8. LeBron James With “The Block”: 2016 NBA Finals

In the pivotal Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James delivered one of the greatest defensive plays in history with “The Block.” Chasing down Andre Iguodala, LeBron’s sensational block shifted the momentum, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an improbable victory over the Golden State Warriors and ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.

7. Reggie Miller’s 8 Points in 9 Seconds: 1995, The 10 Best Plays in NBA History

Reggie Miller’s heroics in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Knicks are etched in NBA lore. Down by six with 18.7 seconds left, Miller scored eight points in nine seconds, including a crucial 3-pointer. The Pacers eventually won the series, highlighting Miller’s impact despite never winning an NBA championship.

6. Tracy McGrady’s 13 Points in 35 Seconds: 2004

In a seemingly lost cause against the Spurs in 2004, Tracy McGrady orchestrated a miraculous comeback. Scoring 13 points in 35 seconds, including four consecutive 3-pointers, McGrady’s performance snatched an unlikely victory for the Rockets.

5. Magic Johnson’s “Baby Skyhook”: 1987 NBA Finals

Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals saw Magic Johnson’s iconic “Baby Skyhook.” With 15 seconds left and the Lakers trailing, Johnson made a sweeping hook shot over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, securing a crucial victory en route to winning the NBA championship.

4. Kobe Bryant’s Last Shot: 2016. The 10 Best Plays in NBA History

In his farewell game in 2016, Kobe Bryant capped off his illustrious 20-season career with a memorable game-winning shot. Scoring the Lakers’ final 13 points, Bryant’s fadeaway jumper over multiple defenders solidified his “Mamba mentality.”

3. “The Shot” by Michael Jordan: 1989

Michael Jordan’s “The Shot” in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Cavaliers remains etched in NBA history. Overcoming double-teaming, Jordan sank a jump shot at the foul line, securing a dramatic victory for the Bulls.

2. The 0.4 Shot: 2004 Western Conference Semifinals

In a crucial Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, Derek Fisher’s miraculous 0.4-second buzzer-beater against the Spurs stunned everyone. The Lakers, seemingly defeated, turned the tables, eventually advancing to the NBA Finals.

1. Michael Jordan’s Last Shot: 1998 NBA Finals, The 10 Best Plays in NBA History

In the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan delivered the greatest play in NBA history with his last shot for the Chicago Bulls. Stealing the ball and sinking a 17-foot jumper with 5.2 seconds left, Jordan secured his sixth championship and solidified his status as the greatest NBA player of all time. Michael Jordan is ranked no 1 in The 10 Best Plays in NBA History

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What criteria are used to determine the best plays?

There’s no single answer. Factors might include:
Impact on the game: Did the play win the game, tie the score, or create a significant momentum shift?
Skill and execution: Did the play showcase incredible athleticism, pinpoint passing, or a clutch shot?
Memorable moment: Does the play stand out for its drama, buzzer-beater, or unexpected execution?

How can I learn more about these classic moments?

Here are some suggestions:
Documentaries: Several documentaries explore iconic moments and rivalries in NBA history.
Player biographies: Reading about legendary players can provide context for their signature plays.
Classic game broadcasts: Watching full broadcasts of historic games allows you to experience the atmosphere and build-up to the big moments.

Where can I find videos of these top 10 plays?

NBA website and social media: The NBA website and social media channels might have highlight videos featuring historic plays. Check the NBA YouTube channel and their official website ( for content.

Summing it Up

The 10 Best Plays in NBA History for 2024 showcase the sport’s enduring ability to produce unforgettable moments. From iconic shots to game-changing plays, these instances continue to define the essence of basketball, captivating fans and etching players’ legacies in the annals of NBA history.

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